Over forty hours of travel, across New Zealand, across Australia, across Asia, across India, over the deserts of the Mideast, we are in Rome. Because Italy required us to tie up last loose ends in person, we flew diagonally across the world, a slice across the sandwich of the world. From the lower right-hand side up to the upper-left corner of this frame of the map, we rode on a straight-lined beam to that city where all roads lead.
It went like this:
Hawke’s Bay to Auckland: 6 hours by car
Auckland airport wait: 5 hours
Auckland to Melbourne: 4 hours
Melbourne layover: 5 hours
Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur: 6 hours
Kuala Lumpur layover: 1 hour
Kuala Lumpur to Dubai: 6 hours
Dubai airport layover: 2 hours
Dubai to Rome: 5 hours
= Forty total hours of mostly sitting upright (unless sprawled out like a vagabond in an airport).
Time passed but didn’t. I don’t know why I bothered wearing my watch seeing as how I never really knew what time it was. Even if I did know the time, it was pointless because it wasn’t the hour that was actually relevant for me. If in Melbourne it was midnight, it was really 3 a.m. for my body’s clock. I was repeating hours that had technically already passed. One step forward, three steps back.
It’s weird to travel great distances like that. So out-of-body. Yet ironically, it is my body that tells me this, revolting in subtle ways against time travel. There is suddenly no container for my rhythms; we are without night, without day or the normal schedule of routine. The human organism goes into shock, it knows. You can try to ignore it but your body somehow knows when it’s travelling against the Earth’s orbit. It’s like walking up a downward bound escalator; you have to work extra hard to get where you are going.
If you look at forty hours of travel as a whole, you’d probably want to vomit or just opt to stay home. That’s how I feel if I think about it that way, even now, after the fact. But if you break it up and look at it in pieces or chunks and just focus on the present location (killing time on Melbourne’s big leather couches, legs stretched out, feet up) then focusing one what’s immediately ahead (boarding for Dubai with a stopover in Malaysia) everything suddenly becomes less overwhelming and more manageable.
It’s not just the time travel factor that is strange, though. It’s the concept of the territory we cover; the cultures and people and religions and landscapes passing beneath, far below on the ground. It’s hard to imagine what was actually happening on the sections of earth we pass over while I’m busy watching Matt LeBlanc’s “Episodes” and corny, predictable Nicholas Sparks movies. I can’t really fathom that while I’m sitting in a chair watching virtual images of the airplane’s flight path, its red line blazing over unpronounceable names of places I’ve never heard of, that I’m actually covering real distances. It’s surreal to know we are traversing so many changing landscapes, crossing into the other hemisphere, floating over places I’ve only ever seen on National Geographic. Fascinating and intriguing. Yet the only proof I have that it is actually happening are the airports. It is bizzarre to leave Melbourne’s plush mod airport then five hours later find myself standing in line to use the women’s bathroom in Malaysia; that is, a porcelain hole over the dirty floor.
The strangest, most curious part about travelling is something I wish I could spell out in a mathematical equation. I wish it were something that could be expressed in symbols and plus signs with a neat little equal sign, punctuating a universal truth: the farther away I go, the greater the distance travelled, the more appreciative I feel towards home. Home meaning the good old United States of America.